Louisville accused of using funds illegally for mailing to town residents

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MASSENA — Massena Public Library officials and some Louisville residents are charging that the town of Louisville illegally used taxpayer money to send out mailings on official town letterhead and used town postage to tell residents to vote no on the June 9 library proposition.

The town also has been served a notice of claim regarding the use of those funds.

“It was recently brought to our attention that the Louisville Town Council used taxpayer money to advocate and pay for the ‘vote no’ campaign regarding the upcoming Massena Public Library ballot referendum,” library officials said in a social media posting. “The misuse of taxpayer money is illegal under the New York State Constitution.

“The Louisville Town Council used taxpayer money to produce and distribute a mailing to all of its citizens on Town of Louisville letterhead. The document urged citizens to ‘vote no’ in the upcoming library ballot referendum. This action is an unauthorized and unconstitutional use of taxpayer money,” they said.

Louisville Supervisor Larry Legault agreed that in retrospect they would not have run into issues if they had not included the statement about voting no.

“The only exception was the last paragraph where it said to vote no,” he said. “Maybe we did the wrong thing about putting in that information.”

He said they wanted to let residents know the impact the change in the library’s status would have on their taxes. He said it would be 17 times what residents were currently paying and asked them if they wanted to pay that increase.

“Our letter that went to the residents specifically lays out all the information on how this affects the taxpayers in the town of Louisville,” Mr. Legault said. “I base my decision on what I do roughly on what the majority of the people who elected me to serve them would want me to do.”

“We have gotten a lot of feedback from our residents that the Louisville Town Board needed to get involved in this and do whatever they could to prevent this from happening,” he said.

In their letter to Louisville residents, town officials noted that they were not asked if they wanted to participate. They also explained the impact the additional tax will have on their bills.

“We may be forced by another community to pay its bills. Do the taxpayers want or can they afford another tax? Please VOTE NO on the ballot and mail back by June 9th. This will be our only chance to vote this tax away,” they wrote.

Malone attorney Kevin Nichols has filed a notice of claim against the town for six claimants who also believe public money should not have been used for the mailings.

“The thrust of the notice really is addressing the illegal expenditures of taxpayer funds. That’s just a clear violation of the law. It’s an egregious use of the public purse,” he said.

Mr. Nichols said the letter could have been legally mailed if there was no attempt to influence the residents by telling them to vote no on the proposition. The notice of claim is ongoing.

“At this point, since the notice of claim, if we can’t resolve it quickly, then the town has a right to take a deposition of the claimants under oath,” he said.

He suggested that there needed to be some “corrective message” with board members taking money out of their pockets to reimburse the town for the cost.

“We just want them to do the right thing,” he said.

Library Director Elaine Dunne said she was concerned about the town’s letter.

“I found that very sad that they would use that. It seems directed particularly at the older community,” she said. “That’s just very sad. The older community is the community we serve the best. We are always running programs for older people and looking for collections for older people. We’ve done surveys. We really have gone out of our way to serve them.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(8) comments

CAT0420

I believe that the stance that this would have been "legal" had the last paragraph not urged a NO vote is questionable - in that the overall tone and content purpose of the letter appears to be clear. Also, I believe the intent goes beyond just the letters. Did not Louisville Town Supervisor mention on the radio reimbursing a private citizen for those Vote NO signs? Also hiring a lawyer to overturn results of a legal referendum that only required signatures from 25 eligible school district voters to place on the ballot, seems a rather taunting and expensive long-shot.

Joseph Savoca

The Massena Public Library has shared factual information with the town councils of Massena, Louisville, Norfolk and Brasher, and all the residents of Massena Central School District about the procedure and implications of the establishment of a school district public library. There has not been any bullying and no basis for making that claim.

If a school district public library is established, the library will no longer be part of the Town of Massena. There will not be a "their". The library will belong to all of the residents of the school district. It will be supported by all of the property owners within the school district and governed by eligible trustees elected from within the school district. The library is now and will be open and free to all to use.

The process for establishing a school district public library is governed by New York State Education Law. This law allows residents of a school district to decide whether or not they want a district library. The voters will decide.

The vote to establish a school district public library is not "rigged" or a "sham". The previous poster questions whether this is "a legitimate vote", but does not provide a basis for these claims.

The Louisville Town Council illegally used tax payer's money to send a letter to residents telling them to "vote no". They have tried to illegally influence the outcome of the vote and took away their constituents freedom to evaluate the information for themselves and cast their own vote.

Charlie McGrath

Of course the vote is rigged. We have a substantially more populous community creating a forced vote by the smaller adjacent communities with a promise that the taxes will be reduced in the larger community if the vote passes. Buying votes is what comes to mind. Forcing the smaller communities to participate is bullying. They have no choice. There is only a "claim" that this was illegal. That is to be determined.

Joseph Savoca

The definition of rigged "manipulated or controlled by deceptive or dishonest means"

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigged. What the previous poster is describing is a prediction that fewer people will vote in agreement with his position than the opposite position.

The article quotes Louisville Town Supervisor Larry Legault “The only exception was the last paragraph where it said to vote no,” he said. “Maybe we did the wrong thing about putting in that information.”

Nice_Commenter

You are dealing with somebody who thinks Trump is Christian Patriot. Let that level of ignorance sink in for a bit.

Nice_Commenter

Reading... bad! Puzzy grabbing....goood! Ooga booga caveman no like books, only book is bible!

Charlie McGrath

The library is upset that they are having a difficult time bullying the three adjacent communities into paying their bills. The Massena Library unilaterally decided that those smaller communities will participate in the vote and will pay if the vote is successful. They are upset that there is such strong opposition to their immoral scheme to force smaller communities to participate in this rigged sham vote. What is next a beach tax? Does the law apply to a entity that has no government standing yet? Is this a legitimate vote?

Nice_Commenter

Color me shocked that the guy who loves a president that ran a fake university opposes the library.

Is this some sort of Borat type joke? Women who can read probably trigger delicate types like Charlie. He is probably still recovering from when the Dixie Chicks triggered him previously.

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